Since the start of the pandemic and through the summer, Camden County residents have faced unprecedented threats to their health and economic security due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout this crisis, the Camden County Freeholder Board has continuously sought opportunities to support the community and to lessen the burden on individuals, families, and businesses.
Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. talked about the necessity of a flexible response when dealing with an ever-changing crisis.
“This kind of emergency demands constant attention, as the needs of our community have changed rapidly from one month to the next,” Cappelli said. “In the spring, our administration worked day and night to secure scarce materials like coronavirus tests, personal protective equipment, and masks. By the summer, cases were decreasing, but the economic fallout of public health measures meant we needed to ensure that businesses, hospitals, and municipalities received the millions of dollars of support they needed. We are still actively monitoring each development, and we are ready to act.”
Initiatives at the county-level have led to a series of actions in the interest in public health and welfare, including:
- The Department of Health has administered thousands of vaccinations as part of the 2020 Flu Shot Program which for the first time features drive-thru vaccination sites.
- More than 5,500 families have been supported via 23 drive-thru food distributions hosted throughout the county.
- More than 345,000 home-delivered meals have been distributed since the pandemic began.
- $25 million in CARES Act funding is being dedicated and provided to small businesses throughout the county.
- $3.2 million in CARES Act funding has been allocated to municipalities that applied for it.
- $28.7 million in CARES Act funding has been allocated to our three major healthcare providers.
- $4 million in CARES Act funding is being allocated to support renters whose income has been impacted by the pandemic.
- Developing and implementing a robust contact tracing operation of more than 60 employees who are working in the county Health Department to identify COVID contacts and limit community spread.
- Continued virtual operation of the county library system for kids, families and seniors, while opening indoor facilities with safety procedures in place.
- Both the Camden County Health Department and Camden County Police Department have given out more than 100,000 masks to residents.
- The Board has tested approximately 7,000 residents, first responders and front-line workers in county-run sites prior to the private sector and nonprofits expanding testing.
- The county worked with Cooper University Health Care, Virtua Health and Jefferson Health in New Jersey to construct and operate four separate COVID testing sites.
- The county strategically placed portable washing stations outdoors to provide options for good hand hygiene for those who lack access.
- Ten wholesale food distributions have been executed since the start of the pandemic feeding more than 2,750 families throughout the county.
- With a lack of cooling centers, over 300 fans and more than 200 air conditioners have been distributed to seniors and disabled residents to keep them in their homes.
- More than 4,000 hand sanitizer units have been given out to residents.
- More than 500,000 pieces of personal protective equipment has been issued to local first responders.
- More than 750,000 units of personal protective equipment has been provided to the county’s 56 long-term care facilities and assisted living centers.
- The county Department of Public Safety has purchased and provided UV decontamination devices to strategic locations throughout the county to ensure critical vehicles and facilities are clean.
- Building strong operational partnerships with Cooper University Health Care, Virtua Health and Jefferson Health in New Jersey.
- Providing tools, educational materials and masks to Cathedral Kitchen in Camden City.
This is just a sampling of the measures taken to protect and support the community, as Camden County has instituted countless additional actions to keep residents safe and secure during this crisis. Planning is already underway for numerous scenarios that may arise in the future, including new testing sites in the event of a second surge, and administration procedures to be used if and when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
Freeholder Jonathan Young highlighted the continued work of county employees who have responded throughout the pandemic.
“Behind the scenes, there is a team of people working with our seniors to keep them safe, working with businesses to keep them open, and working with residents to keep them afloat. These folks have been working nonstop for seven months, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude,” Young said. “These men and women have responded and reacted to every changing situation and every new challenge. I am confident that we will emerge stronger from this pandemic because we have a team that is dedicated to making it happen.”
The CARES Act was a trillion-dollar economic relief package to protect the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The law was signed into law in late March, having been passed by Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan support. Congressman Donald Norcross worked with his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“It has been eight months since the coronavirus pandemic hit South Jersey, and we are still in the midst of both a public health crisis and an economic crisis,” Norcross said. “While no one could have predicted what would unfold this year, I commend Camden County for their responsiveness and innovation during these uncertain times to get resources to those in our community who need it most. I’ll continue to fight in Congress to ensure South Jersey gets the relief needed to combat this outbreak and keep our neighbors healthy and secure.”